Monday, December 05, 2005

Gay teen from Georgia named the Advocate's 'Person of the Year'

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From the Washington Blade: Rural Ga. teen named ‘Person of the Year’ 2005 will end on a well-deserved high note for Kerry Pacer, the lesbian teen from White County, Ga., who stood up to fierce opposition in her fight to form a gay-straight alliance at her high school.

Pacer graces the cover of the Advocate’s Dec. 20 issue, available now, where she is named the national gay newsmagazine’s "Person of the Year." The idea Pacer and her friends proposed early this year should have been simple enough: a club where gay students and their supporters could meet to find support and camaraderie.

But unfortunately, such things are seldom simple. Especially in this political climate. Especially in the South.

As Southern Voice chronicled throughout the year, Pacer’s proposed club drew ugly opposition, not only from White County residents, but even from Kansas-based Fred Phelps, the so-called minister known for picketing slain gay college student Matthew Shepard’s funeral.

Luckily for Pacer, she had not only what was right, but the law on her side. School officials couldn’t deny that the federal Equal Access Act required them to let the club meet, so they begrudgingly approved it late last spring.

For two brief months before school let out for summer, Pacer and her friends got their club. But when school came back in session for fall, the county opted to nix all non-curricular clubs — everything from Students Against Drunk Driving to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — to keep the gay students from meeting.

The club, even though it was quickly thwarted, still made a difference, Pacer told the Advocate in an interview in the "Person of the Year" issue.

"Even if we didn’t really get the club started and even though we don’t have it this year, it does give gay students hope. There are so many people at my school that are out that couldn’t be out before. Now, if someone calls them a faggot or a dyke, they stand up for themselves. Now, if a teacher hears you say that, there will actually be a punishment for it. It’s really changed a lot," Pacer says.

In being named the Advocate’s "Person of the Year," Pacer joins gay icons such as Rosie O’Donnell; V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church; and "Angels in America" playwright Tony Kushner.

Kudos to Pacer for standing up for what she believes in and never backing down from her fight, and kudos, too, to the Advocate, for recognizing the importance of her accomplishment.

Kerry Pacer isn’t a national gay rights leader, though we can hope that one day she will be. And White County High School is just one little school in one rural county in one red southern state.

But as Bruce Steele, the Advocate’s editor, notes in his explanation of the magazine’s choice, while Pacer may be a "small-town gay girl from the Bible Belt," she’s "on the fast track to changing the world." Original source